Friday, November 14, 2008
A GUEST POST BY KEITH BROOKS ON EQUAL RIGHTS
Since When Did Civil Rights Have A Color?
By Keith Brooks
When I learned about the passing of Proposition 8 in California two mornings after history was made, I considered calling in to work. I have never experienced such monumental highs and lows from a political cycle, particularly one in which I had been actively involved. The initial 52-48 vote left me nauseous, although I still wondered if it was an error.
Nope. No error or recount. It had passed. CNN and major news outlets had reported that a margin of roughly 500,000 people had effectively decided that equality should be written into California's constitution. Even as a resident from the Bluegrass State, the numbers were disturbingly solid and couldn't be ignored.
But what makes the mark really shine is how African-Americans were immediately the first to blame. Although Nate Silver from 538.com (http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2008/11/prop-8-myths.html) and the Daily Kos's Shanikka (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/11/7/34645/1235/704/656272) have effectively debunked this myth 1000 times over, as a generational gap was really to blame for the way the vote went, a war of words has continued to escalate, leading to a tit-for-tat between Black and gays.
And where do Black gays fit in all this? Well, Ms. Cannick's post makes it perfectly clear that we don't --- or perhaps shouldn't because we never have.
First, let me say how much I admire Jasmyne Cannick and her devotion to GLBTQ causes, specifically those within the Black community. I can only hope I reach her level of involvement and commitment to working with our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and allies.
But --- and this is a huge but --- on what basis did she decide to separate Black gays from the gay community? When she mentions "White gays" and "Black gays" repeatedly throughout her post, does she not realize that she's contributing to the racial disparities already dividing our community? And the fact that bigots are cackling their heads off with laughter from this unnecessary division?
Healthcare, housing, employment and HIV/AIDS are issues we as a whole community have been and should be devoted to solving and thankfully our nation was able to elect a marvelous candidate who will address them, hopefully within the span of his first term. But it's impossible to ignore the status of the millions of gays and lesbians around the country who can't marry whoever they love, along with the tangled rights that comes with such legal recognition.
The price of being gay in this country amounts to being treated as an invisible citizen or less than one, at least legally. Not to say that it is parallel with the discrimination Blacks have faced for hundreds of years, but the point is that the discrimination is and has always been present. A majority group is denying the rights of a slightly (or largely depending on where you live) unfavorable minority group while using the Bible and thwarting federal and state level guarantees of equal protection of the law. But what also makes this discrimination unique this time around is how it's financially-supported bigotry. Just ask Mormons, who donated nearly 40 percent of the funds for the Yes on 8 campaign. And if we want to play a round of the Blame-Game, let's start with them, shall we?
What also confounds this equality conundrum is the notion of Christianity being tied to civil rights. While it's true that social movements were born in black churches, the movement has expanded to other spheres in America. So many groups have found inspiration from the hundreds of marches, sit-ins, demonstrations and peaceful, nonviolent protests that captivated our nation years ago. But it's a legacy that needs to be adapted to other struggles of equality --- specifically the ones pertaining to immigration and women's rights and the one I'm writing about right now. Let's be clear: gay rights are CIVIL rights. I'd be hard-pressed to think Martin Luther King Jr., his wife, who continued to be an active force against discrimination (and gay rights) or any of the NAACP members, who still maintain a vital voice in the fight for equality, think that we should still be marching on the basis of color discrimination alone.
It's people like Jasmyne Cannick, me and everyone, white, Black, gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered, who need to collectively take on a call to action and recognize this for what it is; a desperate, despicable act to take away the freedoms from a group of people. Instead of resorting to isolation, racial identity certification, general excuses and blaming, we all need to band together and stop this horrible, atrocious act in California and our nation's history before it will be too late to overturn it.
Gay rights are civil rights, period. There is no "Black" skin on it, no matter which way you present it.